BY MARIA KANEVSKY
The kitchen is the center of any home, especially during the holiday season, and the stove is a crucial component of a successful kitchen. Determining which type of stove to purchase can be a big decision. There are several stove cooktop options available, each with its own unique benefits. Learning the basics of each stove type can help you determine what works best for your needs.
Electric stove tops
One of the most common stove tops available to consumers is the electric stove top. It uses electricity to heat the element on the stove top, composed of either radiant heat coils or a glass surface. That heat is then transferred to the pan, pot or other cookware.
Electric stove tops with heat coils are relatively durable and can be scrubbed without worrying too much about causing damage. Cleanup is easy for electric stove tops with a glass surface; however, users should be careful not to scratch the glass. Electric stove tops have a moderate energy efficiency rating, where roughly 74% of the heat reaches the food; however, electric-coil stove tops are slightly less efficient than glass.
Gas-powered stove tops
Another common stove top option is the gas-powered stove top, where the flames can be produced using either natural gas or liquid propane. Among the benefits, the most popular aspect of gas-powered stove tops is the ability to heat food more quickly than electric stove tops. Many cooking enthusiasts prefer gas because of the instant heat and ability to control temperatures more easily.
In the rare case of power outages, gas stove tops will still function while electric stove tops will not. However, gas stove tops are the least energy efficient, with about 40% of the heat generated reaching the food. Much of the energy from gas is lost in the air and wasted as lost heat.
It is also important to be careful of the potential safety risks associated with gas stove tops, such as burns, impacts to indoor air quality and gas leaks. Homes with small children or pets should be especially aware of these potential risks. With any gas stove top, an exhaust hood will be important to reduce potential air quality concerns from nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and carbon monoxide (CO).
Induction stove tops
Although less common, the induction stove top is quickly gaining popularity. An induction stove top uses electromagnetic heating technology to heat the cookware. Only specific cookware can be used on an induction stove top. The cookware needs iron to react properly with the stove top, making stainless steel, cast iron or carbon steel excellent cookware options for induction stove tops.
Underneath an induction stove top is a metal coil that creates a magnetic field, which reacts with the cookware through an electrical current, generating heat. The induction technology works quickly to heat food and is even faster than gas stove tops. Through the induction process, only the part of the stove top directly touching the cookware becomes heated, while the rest of the stove top stays cool.
One of the best benefits of an induction stove top is safety. There are no open flames and the stove top itself is cool to the touch, making burns much less likely. Induction stove tops are also the most energy-efficient form of stove top cooking, with an energy efficiency rating of about 90%, so most of the energy goes to heating the cookware and not the surrounding air. Induction stove tops, like glass electric stove tops, are also easy to clean because of the smooth surface.
Despite all these benefits, induction stove tops can be quite expensive – more so than gas or electric stove tops. Since special cookware is also required for the stove top to work properly, the total price tag becomes even higher.
Stove top options come in various prices, sizes and additional features that depend on specific models. Be sure to research the appropriate stove top options for your culinary needs before making any final decisions. Assessing potential safety concerns in a home can also be the deciding factor between different stove top options. Whether you choose electricity, gas or induction, stove tops are an essential piece for any home.
Maria Kanevsky writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives.